The King's Gardeners Ministries

Reverend S. L. Gardner

Spokane, Washington US

Buying Time — for the Kids
Christians shouldn’t give up on divorce reform — for the sake of children, says a Colorado legislator.

By Peter Lowell

Couples who want a divorce in Colorado need wait only 90 days before the courts shatter their bonds. Dave Schultheis, a state legislator, thinks that’s too short a time to properly weigh such drastic action, especially when children are involved. And he’s read enough to know just how much divorce harms children. But in order to take measures that will protect them, he’ll need to play a waiting game of his own.

For the second year in a row, the Colorado legislature has killed legislation by Schultheis that would have extended the waiting period to a full year and required six hours of counseling for couples with children under age 16. His bill, The Children of Divorce Protection Act of 2002, failed in a 6-3 committee vote in February. A year earlier, the vote was 9-2 against.

Yet Schultheis is encouraged, even though the press ridiculed him, just as it had a year earlier. (A columnist in his hometown newspaper, the Colorado Springs Gazette, called him “the Village Idiot.”) Through dramatic testimony and thorough research, he’s slowly but surely changing minds.

“The positive e-mails I’ve been getting far out-weigh the negatives this year whereas last year the negative far out-weighed the positive,” he said. “Many, many legislators from other states have contacted me. They want to push their legislatures in this direction."

Schultheis is not a career politician. He’s a businessman who heard a speech urging Christians to be involved and decided to run for the Colorado Assembly. He won his primary and general election against liberal opponents by relatively narrow margins in 2000, and immediately tackled one of society’s most divisive issues.

“I saw bill after bill dealing with children’s issues, welfare issues, health care issues, Medicaid. It didn’t take me more than a few weeks to see a common thread running through 80 percent of these bills,” he said. “That common thread was the fallout of divorce. If we could quantify how many tax dollars are being spent to solve the problems that are coming out of this and how that’s affecting each taxpayer we would probably be aghast.”

Schultheis offers compelling evidence of divorce’s far-reaching effects on children:

Reducing divorce will reduce public welfare and healthcare expenditures. “Since the mother receives custody of any children in 75 percent of divorce cases, a high percentage of mothers with children are forced into poverty by divorce. Nearly 50 percent of divorced families with children live in poverty—five times the percentage of intact families in poverty.” (Source: Heritage Center for Data Analysis, based on calculations from "1995 Survey of Consumer Finance," Federal Reserve Board.)

Reducing divorce will reduce domestic violence. “Divorced women are eight times more likely than married women still living with their husbands to be the victims of domestic violence.” ( (Source: National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.)

Reducing divorce will reduce juvenile incarcerations. “A study in Wisconsin showed that juvenile incarceration rates of children from divorced, single-parent families were 12 times higher than those of children of intact families.” ( (Source: Heritage calculations, based on 1993 data from Wisconsin Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Bureau of the Census, "Current Population Survey.")
But would Schultheis’ proposal to extend the waiting period for divorce really help children? Schultheis thinks so.

“A longer waiting period, though not the only causal factor, is clearly related to lower rates of divorce,” he said. “The seven states in the U.S. with the lowest divorce rates have an average waiting period for divorce of a year and a half,” he added, citing a 1994 study by MarriageSavers, a marriage advocacy group in Potomac, Md.

Compelled by the data, Schultheis is thinking of introducing his bill again next year, even if he doesn’t have the votes.

“I wouldn’t have (introduced the bill) if I wasn’t fully committed to the fact that I thought it was right. So I need to move ahead with this regardless of who’s there to support it. Any major change in society does not occur overnight. It is a several year process.”

TAKE ACTION: To find out more about Rep. Dave Schultheis and his divorce reform legislation, go to issues/schultheis_bills_2002.htm

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